Western PA District C&MA
Nestled along the Clarion River at the edge of the Allegheny National Forest is historic Ridgway, a quaint and friendly town of 3,800 people. Once the home of land barons, Ridgway boasts stunning Victorian architecture with a downtown full of shops, restaurants and that welcoming atmosphere found in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Centrally located in the forests of the Pennsylvania wilds, Ridgway is an outdoor lover’s paradise. It is the perfect place to explore the Allegheny National Forest, kayak or fish the Clarion River, hike or bike the Little Toby Rail Trail or view free roaming elk only 20 miles away. A myriad of places are perfect for walking, hiking, boating, biking and fly fishing. In the winter cross-country skiing is popular as well as ice fishing and snowmobiling. The Elk County Council of the Arts has unique pieces of art for sale and the internationally acclaimed Chain Carvers’ Rendezvous brings carvers from all over the world to Ridgway each year. The cost of living index in Ridgway is low, 83 with the U.S. average at 100. Ridgway has full-time law enforcement however, the crime rate is low, most being thefts and burglaries. The nearest large cities are Erie and Pittsburgh, both less than 100 miles away. The nearest hospital is Penn Highlands Elk, in St. Mary’s, 10 miles away. 1. HISTORY The Christian Missionary Alliance opened a church in Ridgway, PA in February, 1931. Rev. Fred Henry, then pastor of the Alliance Church in Mahaffey, PA was also a “pioneer preacher” who made contacts in towns without an Alliance Church for the purpose of establishing a church. In Ridgway, his contacts led him to a church building built by the Baptists in 1902 in which no congregation was holding services. Rev. Henry received permission to hold services in the church. A month’s meetings were held with various pastors from the Dubois-Clearfield area preaching. After this Rev. Henry held services with Sunday school at 2 PM, worship at 3 PM and 7:30 PM. On Thursday evenings he held Prayer meeting and Bible study. Rev. Henry served as pastor from 1931-1935. By January 1932 the Alliance membership was 13. By 1940 it had grown to 40 with peak membership of 44 in 1957. In 1997 the church began meeting in the local elementary school as it outgrew space in the church building and preparations began for a new building. The official name of the church originally was The Gospel Tabernacle of the Christian Missionary Alliance but through the years became The Alliance Church and later the Ridgway Alliance Church. In 2013 the name was changed to Awakening Alliance Church. 2. MAJOR EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF AWAKENING ALLIANCE ? The parsonage was completed in 1998. ? The present building was completed in 2002. ? The gymnasium lent itself to children’s ministries and Awana was started shortly thereafter and grew exponentially. ? The building mortgage was paid off early in 2014. 3. CHURCH DATA Attendance dropped from 150 on Sundays in 2009 to 80-110 in 2017. In the last two years it has dwindled to between 25 and 40. In 2008 there were 75 professions of faith and 5 baptisms. In 2017 there were 8 professions of faith and 5 baptisms. There are between 13 and 15 churches within a 5-mile radius of Awakening Alliance. Most are evangelical to a degree and have very small congregations. Likely 50% of Ridgway is unchurched despite numerous outreach events over the last 5 years by Awakening Alliance. Ridgway is in need of passionate preaching and leadership. AAC has a great facility which includes a gymnasium but needs strong leadership for youth, children and adults. 4. MINISTRY The last few years our focus has been “Awakening our region to the Father’s love in Christ.” AAC has been outreach oriented with services at the gazebo downtown, at the high rise and at the assisted living facility. Each service has included a meal and has been well received. AAC has spearheaded a community VBS program with other local churches. In August 2019 there were more than 100 children each evening. At the end of the event there is a Backpack Bash where children receive a backpack and school supplies. Awakening Alliance Church’s current regular meetings include: ? Sunday Service at 10:00 with Children’s Church ? Sunday school for all ages (except for the summer months) ? One small group meeting with 4-10 people, some who do not attend Sunday ? Sunday jail ministry ? Annual mission trip where participants are built up spiritually as well as serve overseas. In recent years there were dozens of children excited about attending Awana and youth ministry as well as several adult small groups. Many who participated had no affiliation with AAC. AAC’s priorities: First, the Sunday worship service, Second, children and Third, small discipleship groups AAC’s Strengths: Passionate biblically grounded people, the facility includes a gymnasium, no debt and a large parsonage. Weaknesses: The location is not in town and prohibits walking to services and events Opportunities: Restored relationships with people who have left the congregation, discipleship and cooperation with other ministries/churches. The leadership would like to: Achieve: Increase the number of members and adherents, have better communication, increase small group participation, and do more fun things together such as games, dinners (Mother’s Day), volleyball and movie night. Preserve: The strong governing board leadership, Bible based preaching and encouragement as well as children’s ministry. Meaningful praise and worship on Sundays. Remain outreach focused including VBS, jail ministry and youth ministry. Avoid: Losing more people, miscommunication, conflict and offense. The major roadblocks that could impede future growth and progress include: ? No pastor or pastoral leadership ? The history of members/adherents leaving the body ? AAC currently has few leaders and servants ? Cultural changes; people are busy and solutions are not obvious. Currently worship services are one hour long and include a welcome, music and a Bible based message. In the last year the style of preaching was practical teaching. Messages included Galatians, grace, hope, identity and the New versus the Old covenant. The vision of the church is to preach and promote the Good News of the Gospel, to build up and encourage the members and adherents so they go out as ambassadors of Christ. Also, the vision includes equipping the youth to stand against the lies of Satan (John 8:44). The vision for the church over the next 5 years is to draw people into a stronger relationship with Jesus and each other through contagious, passionate teaching and preaching. Leaders will be trained, attendance will be more consistent and people would mature into serving. Members will rally behind the leadership (pastor, worship, youth leader, and board) and look for opportunities to be used. More people will be plugged into small groups. AAC stands by the CMA statement of beliefs and bylaws. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God. There are not enough people being discipled at AAC, a more systematic approach to discipleship is needed. Approximately 25-30% of members and adherents are actively involved in ministry in the church. Currently members and adherents are discipled through Sunday school, small groups and mission trips. 5. OUTREACH Evangelistic events in 2018 include: Services at the gazebo downtown with lunch afterwards Services at the high rise and assisted living with lunch provided VBS and backpack bash Jail ministry Small group(s) Mission trips The reason/s visitors come to AAC: They are personally invited The top 3 reasons why visitors return: 1. Personal invitation and they have felt welcomed 2. Great preaching and worship 3. Children’s ministries The most common reasons/excuses regular attendees stop coming: 1. Conflict, generally with the pastor 2. Needs are not being met 3. Lack of visitation or outreach to the church family 4. Style of music 6. PROPERTY/FACILITES An asset to Awakening Alliance is the property and facilities which have room for expansion. The sanctuary/gymnasium is a multi-purpose room useful for Sunday Service, youth and children’s ministry, Sunday school and dinners. The building also has four classrooms, 3 offices and a nursery. Both the church and parsonage are air conditioned. The parsonage was constructed in 1997 - 1998 and is located behind the church building. It has two floors plus a basement and attic. The attic has two unfinished rooms that give spacious room for storage or bedrooms. On the first floor are two living areas, a kitchen and an office. On the second floor are 4 bedrooms. ? Date of construction of the gymnasium/sanctuary: 2002 ? Gymnasium capacity: 200-250 people ? The general condition of the property and facilities including the parsonage is very good. An active trustee committee keeps up with repairs. ? There is a large church parking lot adequate for meetings ? The church and church sign is visible from major Route 219 with a short gravel driveway into the parking lot. ? Awakening Alliance Church is debt free. 7. ATTITUDE TOWARD CHANGE The leadership generally has embraced change brought by the pastor over the last years. The service was shortened and a focus was given to making visitors comfortable and welcome. Many of the adherents and members felt “left out” with the emphasis moving more toward the unchurched which caused a decrease in attendance to less than 40 on any given Sunday. Three issues that have caused the most conflict in the last 5 years include: ? Lack of communication between the pastor and congregation ? Criticism of the pastor and a change to focusing on visitors ? Turnover in ministry leadership 8. FINANCES A budget committee (made up of the treasurer, assistant treasurer, governing board member and the pastor) sets the budget for the year. When decisions need to be made outside of those budgets the governing board makes the decisions. The Elder board makes benevolent decisions. No appeals for income have been made in recent history. Pastor’s compensation package: Up until now the pastor’s compensation has been on a free will offering basis, administered through a confidential pastoral fund. The church is in the process of transitioning to a traditional compensation package to be determined by the governing board, based on current giving and district guidelines. 9. PASTORAL EXPECTATIONS Our pastor’s emphasis should be on ? Prayer and Bible study ? Preaching ? Lay leadership development ? Disciple making ? Evangelism ? Shepherding Pastoral leadership would benefit AAC if it is Biblically based, dynamic, contagious and enthusiastic. The next pastor will be a good communicator and lead by example as well as be willing to be evaluated by the elders. At least 5 years of pastoral experience would be helpful. In their first year of ministry the Pastor would need to get to know the congregation well, especially those in the background. Find prayer partners and get the church praying. The governing board will be a support system for a pastor. A new part-time secretary was hired in August 2019. She is currently working 10 hours per week. 10. ASSESSING PASTORAL LEADERSHIP NEEDS The top natural talents most desired in a pastor include: 1. Friendly and out going 2. Good communicator 3. Able to lead and delegate Applications: Next Steps Governing Board: Welcoming the pastor Make themselves available to work alongside the pastor Reach out to “dormant” members New Pastor: Reach out and get to know the governing board and congregation Congregation: Reach out and get to know the pastor
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